Shifting Identities

1287 Relax and Succeed - Politeness is to human natureIf you don’t think you have different identities just try this: the next time you’re talking to someone you don’t like, imagine that someone you respect more than almost anyone is listening to the exchange.

If you do that earnestly you’ll find that you’ll choose more charitable and productive words and even friendlier body language with whoever you’re dealing with, even someone you don’t like.

But why would you be nicer? Or nice to someone you don’t like? Are you a brown-noser? A climber? A show off? Not really.

You would feel the urge to be nicer because, while you might possibly have been unusually nice to someone you don’t like anyway, what this thought experiment demonstrates is that we all subconsciously desire, more than anything, to belong.

This means that if someone we respected was watching us, we would naturally want to demonstrate our virtue to increase our value to them, and by extension their group. That doesn’t mean the virtue itself is entirely false. It simply means it was real virtue triggered by events.

Since a group of cooperating people will always out-compete a group of selfish people, we were built to be pack animals. This means that any action that ingratiates us to, or protects our status within, a group will be naturally appealing to a healthy human, even if only on a subconscious level. Sometimes it makes us feel good to help others and we do it for the joy we get, but it is also beneficial to be seen to be helping others, sincerely or otherwise. It builds community. Our impulse is natural.

But why would you be nicer? Or nice to someone you don’t like? Are you a brown-noser? A climber? A show off? Not really.

We have to keep in mind, chimps and bonobos are farther out on the evolutionary bush than we are, by millions of years. They are newer to evolution than we are. We are animals who are civilized, but still animals. We naturally feel safer in groups than alone, and that inclination in us explains everything from disenfranchised kids joining gangs, to why former team-sport athletes often struggle with depression after retirement. People need a tribe of some sort.

Having a place in a group is where we belong, and any feeling outside of that drives us toward belonging like thirst leads us to water. That’s why the world feels so harsh right now.

1287 Relax and Succeed - We shouldn’t build sharp tall fencesEveryone’s so judgmental that no one feels acceptable and that’s lead to insecurity that in turn leads to loneliness etc. etc. We shouldn’t use harsh judgments to build sharp, tall fences around ourselves when we are also stumbling through reality. We need each other, including each other’s forgiveness for our own inabilities.

There are two major ways to connect ourselves to others: the love we share that is comforting, and/or our value in terms of what we can contribute to their lives. Put another way, someone who protects us from dragons can get away with being grumpy; and being lovable is simply dragon-slaying love with a nicer role. But what binds us is a shared responsibility to each other. Denying that is painful, fulfilling it feels good, even if that involves fighting ‘dragons.’

Every role done well has value, and every tribe can carry a struggling member for a time. This is the value of community, and our ability to appreciate that value explains why we naturally become more aware of the value of kindness while we are in the presence of others.

Enjoy your days.

peace. s

According to Who?

1034-relax-and-succeed-just-because-you-are-rightYou’re right, you’re flawed. You don’t have a bunch of the downsides you think you do, but you do have some. Or, if you’re like some of us, you either can’t comprehend a lot of social choices; or you do but they feel inauthentic, which makes us appear even more flawed. I say appear because when we say we’re flawed; according to who?

Whether it happens in your mind or someone else’s, ephemeral opinions and beliefs about you should not be seen as being the same thing as the real you. Those are spectres in your mind. They are created in your theatre of thoughts and only you see your stories. Other people see theirs. So even if you’re happy with the way you live, you can be sure others won’t be.

Just like every religious person has a different idea of their religion, and just as a soldier, a politician and a bureaucrat will have somewhat different ideas about what it means to represent their nation, every person you meet and lots you’ll never meet will each have their own opinion of you and it will have far more to do with them than you.

1034-relax-and-succeed-dont-be-surprisedThat’s what society is: a big criss-cross intersection of all of our cooperative and conflicting ideas and beliefs. That is the landscape you navigate every day as an ego. That is the mess that things like traffic laws and communications protocols and democracy all try to loosely corral.

It isn’t possible for you to manage all of those varying personalities in their varying moods going through various things in their life. They’ll hide how they really feel, they’ll lie, they’ll unintentionally mislead you or you’ll just plain misunderstand them; but the more you try to understand it all the more complex it will all become. Thoughts beget thoughts.

You don’t have to get everyone to understand you and you don’t have to understand the universe you just have to understand yourself, and how you–like everyone–has thoughts about things but those thoughts are not those actual things. You can call rain bad but without it you’d die, so clearly it’s not actually all bad, but you can paint it that way for yourself inside your own head; just like people can paint you and just like you routinely paint them.

1034-relax-and-succeed-i-am-aware-that-i-am-less-than-some-people-preferFree yourself from caring about something meaningless. If they’re your boss and their opinion has some impact on you that you can’t control, then you can’t control that anyway so you’re better to not care about the opinion and be your usual self.

It’s like the friend of mine who rhetorically argued with every caller on a call-in radio show he had playing in his car. He said I should be upset too but I told him it didn’t look either enjoyable or productive. I asked him if he agreed that on every issue as big as the one being discussed, if most people would have their own opinion. He agreed. He also agreed that every opinion from crazy to crazy would be included. So I asked him, if he knew that, why he was surprised to hear them call in? Why was he angry? Why wasn’t he just going; oh it’s that guy.

Funnily enough that made simple sense to my friend and he could actually listen to the show seeing it that way. He felt better and he listened better too. That change spawned this blog. I hope you find this helpful too. That way, the next time someone meets you and doesn’t like you, you can just say I knew there had to be a bunch of you somewhere. It’s nice to meet you. Sorry to disappoint you with who I naturally am. I’ll do my best to not let that taint my view of you. It’s authentic, it’s open and caring, and trust me, people will think it’s weird. But who cares what they think anyway, right? 😉

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

The Casual Perfectionist

934 Relax and Succeed - I have taught that when error ceasesSubconsciously many modern people are striving for perfection. They won’t give themselves an off day; they’ll look at some skill they have and then compare themselves to the best person they know at that skill; they will rarely credit their successes and will primarily note their flaws. Sound like anyone you know?

Taken from the egocentric perspective of a disconnected being the quote above means that if you work at it hard enough some day you’ll have fixed yourself. You’ll be done. Complete. Finished. Impressive. But that’s not a healthy way to take the quote.

934 Relax and Succeed - How we see flowers“When error ceases” is the first portion I’d like you to focus on. They don’t mean stop making errors, they mean get rid of the idea that there is such a thing as an error. Is a driver making an error when they’re worried about all that weight and speed and skill so they’re looking just off the end of the hood? No. They’re learning. Learning is a series of missteps that helps us refine our path to success. So those aren’t errors. They’re just steps on a journey to knowledge.

Next look at “for what you are.” Because the healthiest way to dispel your idea that you can make mistakes is to not make a you at all. Just like the concept of an error, you too are just a collection of ideas in various contexts. Lose that idea of a Self and you lose the idea of mistakes because there’s no one to own them. On top of that you realize you never were an individual, you always were just a collection of constantly evolving beliefs that reeled through your consciousness and appeared to you on a screen called reality.

You know, you could just love where and who are right now. There are ways to be grateful in virtually any day. But to do that you have to give up the idea that you need to do something, become someone or obtain special knowledge. You have to know and fully believe that you are the best expert there has ever been for the living of your life.

934 Relax and Succeed - I am willing to let the love inAbandon your ideas that you need to be anything other than who you are. You hide because you think you need to be more. Maybe you hide with shyness. Maybe you’re always out there but all of your connections are intentionally superficial. Regardless, you do not need to hide anything or be anything. Yes there will be people who don’t like who you are. You want the right to not like some types of people too don’t you? So let them be and don’t think it’s your job to get them to like you or accept they’re wrong. Just be you and let your friends find you.

Take a big breath in and slowly let it out. Do it again. I’ll wait. I said I’ll wait. Breathe. Slow. Feel your body. Feel the air enter your lungs. Get Now. Those feelings, without the story of who they belong to, is the real you. Quiet that layer of judgmental desire-filled thought and free yourself to combine with the world in a strange but beautiful dance called life. It’s been waiting for you to love it because it wants to love you back.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

Your Emotional Reality

870 Relax and Succeed - 30 years from nowThere are certain things that make sense and then there are some things that make an unexpectedly profound sort of sense. So yes it makes sense that people don’t like feeling anxious. But, while it’s a bit counter-intuitive at first, it makes sense that nature has given us the sensation of anxiousness for a purpose, so there must be times where it is appropriate.

We’re learning through doing these meditations that it is appropriate to feel hyper aware of danger in high-stakes situations. But it is also appropriate to keep in mind that real danger is much different than feeling anxious due to your narrative thoughts about what past or future events might mean to you right now.

For instance, it makes sense to your ego to not like it when your reputation gets hurt. Your ego is fundamentally who you believe you are, but your identity to other people is who they think you are. Just knowing those two things proves that a “reputation” doesn’t really exist. It would be more accurate to say, anyone who is aware of your existence will have an opinion. That’s it. So if it’s that certain and arbitrary then what’s the point in having an emotional reaction to that? You might as well spin a bottle.

870 Relax and Succeed - What other people thinkSomeone not liking you isn’t the edge of an actual cliff. Even if you’re correct, those are ideas someone will think for a while inside the confines of their own head. Whether people like you or don’t like you, that has almost nothing to do with you and almost everything to do with them. So that’s a big difference: a cliff is real danger and a useful place for a cautionary emotion. But creating / experiencing that emotion over a zillion people’s casual fleeting opinions is like begging to be neurotic.

Status and reputations matter to people who don’t understand what those things really are. People thought many brilliant scientists were wrong. At a certain place and a certain time that made sense. Same for Van Gogh. It appeared he hadn’t succeeded as a painter but it turned out we needed time to understand how brilliant he was. So what is Van Gogh’s reputation? To someone dead from his era they could easily rise and pass a lie detector saying he was no good. And they would be telling the truth–their truth.

It makes sense that people will think the worst things about people who have hurt them but that does not mean hurting you was what they intended. Even if it was, from their perspective they may have been trying to neutralize something that threatened them. So the mean pretty girls in high school pick on the girls that make them feel dumb, ugly, shallow or less cool. Can you see having a personal reaction to that sort of general fear-based behaviour makes no sense? You’re above that.

870 Relax and Succeed - Don't ever feel badPride, status, reputation, regret, guilt, worry–these are thought-forms in your consciousness. You need to replace them with something, because to exist is to create the world with your thoughts. That’s why people like me can have bad accidents, have their bodies die but yet the other aspect of them survives until the body is inhabitable again. Your life isn’t your cells, it’s the experience you have within your consciousness.

See your day as a running commentary on a world that simply is, and even when it seems directed right at you remember that it is still just itself being itself in all of its chaotic glory. Don’t ask the ocean to shape its waves in very particular ways and instead just crash as many times as it takes to learn how to ride any wave successfully.

Forget managing your own and other people’s judgments. Your ego wants to be impressive but the real you just wants peace. Don’t let thoughts about non-real things like status and reputation and guilt be thoughts you choose to think when you have so many others available.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations around the world.

Other Perspectives #89

This is true although it’s important to point out that this choice–this decision–gets made every moment of every single day. It’s not like one decision makes you a good or bad person for the rest of your life. People are all the same–they all hold the same potential. Their behaviour is not who they are, but at the same time their life will be made up of that behaviour. So you can develop a reputation for a certain behaviour but that’s not the same as being a bad person. Everyone still has other behaviours available to them. So never lose sight of yours or anyone else’s potential. It’s always only one moment–one decision, one choice–away. After that you just have to know with certainty that you will choose bad behaviour occasionally no matter who you are. But if you’re awake and paying attention, the consequences that result will be all the motivation you need to return to more rewarding choices. Make those choices starting right now. Give the next person you meet a compliment and start off their time with you by helping them to recognize their ability to make good choices about their life too. Have a great week everyone.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.

00 Relax and Succeed - Other Perspectives Footer

The World of Feeling

Where do you live? And I don’t mean your body. That’s not you. Otherwise everyone whose body died would be dead and we know that’s not true. In cases similar to mine lots of people have had their body die and then they’ve resurrected. So you isn’t your body, it’s whatever’s in your consciousness. The contents of your consciousness—your beliefs, self-identity and 673 Relax and Succeed - How good you feelhabitual narratives all define what you act like and therefore who you believe you are. So if you are the sum all of your thinking then where you live is your consciousness.

That is where you spend your time. You’ve almost completely abandoned the world by 25 years old and you would only make a real connection with it when you played sports or maybe camped. Outdoor adventurers tend to stay a bit more in touch, but for the most part people spend most of their lives swimming to and fro in their own thinking. So you have this choice, which is to take the world in, or you can output an opinion about the little bit of it you pay a little bit of attention to. Just think about some of the opinions you have of other people and how insanely second and third hand and unreliable they are. We’re crazy.

So now there’s two primary places you can situate yourself in human consciousness. You can live in the world of ideas. These are things like your culture or your laws or your rules or manners or ways of doing things. So in WWII a guy could say that he was a junior officer and had been ordered to kill people and in the world of ideas that can make a kind of sense. But in the human world, the world of feelings, everyone knows that killing feels wrong. A technical thought-based version of reality does not excuse the fact that a human being murdered other human beings. So it’s possible to be technically correct 673 Relax and Succeed - Without the Taoaccording to the rules and yet your behaviour could still be entirely immoral. It is important to remember that we live within that bizarre duality every single day.

Because I have long-lived with an awareness that people actually live in their consciousness, I was often at odds with those around me. Without realizing they had done it, they would all work toward a judgment of and then alignment with one of a few dominant perspectives. Like for instance, the idea of good and bad. So if you live there, music must be ranked very seriously and where I live you just listen. There’s no right or wrong things to enjoy. You can like this kind of music instead of that, wear this instead of that, vote for them instead of them, you can like these people or companies or objects. But most people live where there are fashions and trends and things are new or desired. I’ve generally surrounded myself with extremely impressive people, so I rarely had conflicts with their humanitarian views but I still was living in a different place when it came to the reality I was living in.

How this difference would translate is that their priority would be to reconcile the discussion in the room to those dominant perspectives, whereas I would see the room as an emotional soup, where maybe one area was too hot and tipped toward temper, or another might be too heavy and sinking to the bottom. This is so hyper-subtle that no one is even aware they are doing it. My reaction is to ignore the cultural frameworks and live in the part of the world where we feel our lives happen.

673 Relax and Succeed - And those who were seen dancingSo say a discussion about music came up. In the discussion are four people. Amy, Bill, Clark and me. I’ve heard Amy mention that she’s having a really rough week and she’s been feeling really down on herself and so my perspective on the room is that there is a low spot among my friends and it is my nature to want to raise it. Let’s say that I also know that Bill is a super nice guy who loves Amy but he also has very strong opinions, so he is like a sharp spot on this landscape. She’s tender, he’s sharp. No one’s wrong, but that’s the landscape I see. Meanwhile the others will be talking about music.

So for instance, let’s say they’re talking about who the most influential band would be. And let’s say Amy picks someone I really don’t like or respect much. And let’s say Bill picks my favourite band and he defends them brilliantly and then attacks Amy’s choice just as brilliantly. Clark, who has the same favourite band agrees that Bill is “right” simply because Bill agrees with his view. Rather than get on board and actually tell a truth in that world, a tell a truth in my world and I lie and say I like Amy’s band because I know she needs to feel supported right now, and I know Bill’s going to go at her hard so I give him a lot of reasons why I think she’s right so he can focus his bluster on me instead of on her because I feel great and she doesn’t. It’s no different than making soup for someone sick.

People will later say I lied about what bands I like to try impress Amy for my ego. Or they’ll criticize me for liking a band I don’t like. But none of that matters to 673 Relax and Succeed - Compassion is a Verbsomeone like me. Because I live in that other world. Reputation lives in that world of rules and ideas and conformity. I live where Amy feels. And in that world, I made a difference and it was good. So I live with that feeling every day.

I encourage you to join me in living in the world of feeling. It’s a much easier world to negotiate, it’s infinitely more peaceful without all of the judgment and you can do a lot of good there. You will irritate more people from that other world but I’m sorry, you can’t have it both ways. Either you’re judging people or you’re not. If you don’t judge their moods and decisions and just help them when they’re struggling and support their successes when they are succeeding, then you will find you will have lived an extremely good life.

Have yourself an awesome day.

peace. s

Other Perspectives #23

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426 Relax and Succeed Quote Rebuttal - Live in such a way.

Hey, I get the sentiment here and it’s a nice thought. And I’m all for people leading “good” lives. But to me that is a life you love, because those kinds of lives include joy, laughter, sharing, compassion—all the makings of the easiest type of life. But have a great life selfishly, because it feels good for you, not to influence people around you. Only you experience your thoughts about your life, so what other people think is entirely irrelevant. Everyone lives in their own separate bubble of judgmental thoughts. That’s what the world is to all of us: our ideas about the world. And the people in it. So no matter how you lived, there would still be people who would have hateful thoughts about you. If you were perfect people would hate you for being perfect. Remember, Nelson Mandela was in jail and Martin Luther King and Gandhi were both shot. So no matter how “good” you think you can be, there’s no way to please seven billion people, so just relax and selfishly do what feels right to a happy and connected. You and everything will be as good as you each can be. We can’t seek perfection, we must realize ourselves authentically in as many moments as we’re able to stay conscious for. If you demanded a definition for goodness, that’s what I would use. Because that is the purest form of us in the spiritual sense. And that is Truth in motion. That is the universe being. And there is nothing “wrong” in that.

peace. s

Note: Everyone who posts or shares a quote does so with the very best of intentions. That said, I have created the series of Other Perspectives blog posts in an effort to prevent some of these ideas from entering into people’s consciousness unchallenged. These quotes range from silly to dangerous and—while I intend no offense to their creators—I do use these rebuttals to help define and delineate the larger message I’m attempting to convey in my own work. I do hope you find them helpful in your pursuit of both psychological and spiritual health.